Open Access Technical advance

High sensitivity assays for docetaxel and paclitaxel in plasma using solid-phase extraction and high-performance liquid chromatography with UV detection

Anders Andersen1*, David J Warren1, Paal F Brunsvig2, Steinar Aamdal3, Gunnar B Kristensen4 and Harald Olsen1

Author Affiliations

1 Central Laboratory, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, N-0310 Oslo, Norway

2 Department of Medical Oncology, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, N-0310 Oslo, Norway

3 Department of Clinical Research, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, N-0310 Oslo, Norway

4 Department of Gynecologic Oncology, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, N-0310 Oslo, Norway

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Clinical Pharmacology 2006, 6:2  doi:10.1186/1472-6904-6-2

Published: 13 January 2006



The taxanes paclitaxel and docetaxel have traditionally been used in high doses every third week in the treatment of cancer. Lately there has been a trend towards giving weekly low doses to improve the therapeutic index. This article describes the development of high performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) methods suitable for monitoring taxane levels in patients, focusing on patients receiving low-dose therapy.


Paclitaxel and docetaxel were extracted from human plasma by solid phase extraction, and detected by absorbance at 227 nm after separation by reversed phase high performance liquid chromatography. The methods were validated and their performance were tested using samples from patients receiving paclitaxel or docetaxel.


The limits of quantitation were 1 nM for docetaxel and 1.2 nM for paclitaxel. For both compounds linearity was confirmed from the limit of quantitation up to 1000 nM in plasma. The recoveries ranged between 92% and 118% for docetaxel and between 76% and 104% for paclitaxel. Accuracy and precision were within international acceptance criteria, that is within ± 15%, except at the limit of quantitation where values within ± 20% are acceptable. Low-dose patients included in an on going clinical trial had a median docetaxel concentration of 2.8 nM at 72 hours post infusion. Patients receiving 100 mg/m2 of paclitaxel had a mean paclitaxel concentration of 21 nM 48 hours after the end of infusion.


We have developed an HPLC method using UV detection capable of quantifying 1 nM of docetaxel in plasma samples. The method should be useful for pharmacokinetic determinations at all relevant doses of docetaxel. Using a similar methodology paclitaxel can be quantified down to a concentration of 1.2 nM in plasma with acceptable accuracy and precision. We further demonstrate that the previously reported negative influence of Cremophor EL on assay performance may be overcome by degradation of the detergent by incubation with lipase.